It was 6 PM on Tuesday, July 3rd.
I showed up at my son’s daycare to pick him up. July 4th was the next day, so I double-checked with the teacher’s assistant to make sure that they were closed that day.
To my surprise, the assistant said they would be closed on July 5th and 6th (Thursday & Friday) as well.
“What?! No one told me this. I haven’t asked my boss for approval to telecommute or take those two days off yet.
And it was already Tuesday afternoon.” My mind went into a frenzy.
I was mad for the following reasons:
1. Those dates (July 5th and 6th) weren’t written as days off in the contract.
2. No one told me the daycare was going to be closed on those days.
3. I wasn’t happy about asking my boss for approval at the last minute. I was assigned a new supervisor just four days before and didn’t want to leave a bad impression on him.
4. The office was already closed, and I doubted if my new boss would check his work email on July 4th.
5. I did not appreciate a last-minute notice from the teacher about my son.
I checked the messages and emails on my phone. There was no announcement or notification from the teacher. I was really upset but tried to keep calm.
I called the teacher but couldn’t reach her. I asked other parents who are our neighbors. They told me they had been informed a month before. Apparently, the teacher just forgot to tell me, which she later confirmed.
Related: Our 7 Expectations For Our Son
I went home and shared the news with Mr. FAF, who wasn’t happy either. It wasn’t the first time the daycare just closed on a day they were supposed to open. And those days were not written in our contract either.
We were so unhappy about the way things were handled that we started talking about sending Baby FAF to a proper daycare center.
Our son is currently a little older than 3 and has been going to the same daycare for a little more than a year. It’s an in-home daycare with two teachers watching about 8-9 kids from 1.5 months to 4 years old.
They charge $295/week and don’t provide food. I pack lunch, snacks, and drinks for our son every day. We initially wanted to send him to a proper daycare center (though a bit more expensive at $375/week with food and drinks).
However, our neighbors strongly recommended the in-home daycare and said that the other center was overpriced.
We went to check the center on a Friday. I was a bit appalled at the lack of cleanliness in the class and the overpowering smell of milk, vomit, and bathroom mixed together in a tiny space.
Why the in-home daycare
We decided on the in-home daycare for 6 reasons:
1. It seemed cleaner than the other place. Every kid would get to sleep in a proper crib instead of a mat on the floor at the center.
2. I could pack lunch for our son, and he could continue to eat the food he was used to at home. We would have control over what he ate (i.e. no unhealthy snacks or sugar drinks like juice or fruit punch).
3. He could get more attention and care from the teachers due to a smaller-sized class (8 kids v. 16 kids for two teachers).
4. The in-home daycare is only a 5-minute walk from our house while the center is a 20-minute walk. This is important to us since we are a one-car family.
I would be in charge of dropping Baby FAF off at daycare. It will make my one-way commute 1 hour and 20 minute instead of only 45-50 minutes. Mr. FAF has the car but leaves home at 5:45 AM every morning and comes home pretty late at night (7-9 PM).
5. It was $80/week cheaper, meaning we could save $4,160/year on daycare. The price wasn’t a big factor in our decision at the time since we wanted our on to get the best care and education he could.
After all, we spent one year away from our son, and just wanted the best for him. But it was a plus that the in-home daycare was cheaper.
6. Our neighbors highly recommended the in-home daycare and the teacher.
Related: Why We Sent Our Son To China
After much deliberation, Mr. FAF and I decided to enroll our son at the in-home daycare. However, after a couple of months, we realized the following shortcomings of the place:
1. Unexpected days off: The teacher would tell us the daycare would be closed on unexpected dates for religious or cultural reasons/events that are not stated in the contract. We just bite the bullet to avoid tension with the teacher. The neighbors had not mentioned any of this to us.
2. Lack of a proper curriculum for older toddlers: The place is great for kids up to 2-2.5 years old. I know the teacher talks about coloring, spelling, learning how to sing and such.
But according to other parents, they don’t have a proper curriculum for 3-4 year-old toddlers like at pre-K. That makes us increasingly concerned since our son is a little older than 3 and can’t really form long sentences yet.
I know kids develop at different paces, and our son was in China during this 2nd year. But we just got anxious about his speech development.
That weekend, I asked for recommendations for a proper pre-K and quickly realized that those pre-K centers are at least 2 miles away from our house.
Basically, they’re not within walking distance from where we live. There were only two options for us to make that happen:
1. Mr. FAF will need to leave for work later (6:30 AM instead of 5:45 AM) and come home earlier (5 PM instead of 7-9 PM) to drop off and pick up Baby FAF. This is not a good long-term solution since it will affect Mr. FAF’s job performance and schedule.
2. We need to purchase another car just so that we can send our son to a pre-K.
Mr. FAF and I told each other our son was more important than money.
And we were willing to buy another car so that he could get better care and education.
We toyed with the idea of getting a minivan since our family is growing.
However, it would cost us around $30,000 to get even a used van.
We then considered getting a $5,000 used car (probably Toyota Corolla).
Having a second car will probably add $200-300 of expenses a month for car insurance, gas, maintenance, and repairs.
We were fine with that decision until we considered my schedule and our second baby.
Those pre-K centers don’t take infants under 16 months. We will need to send our second baby to daycare when she’s two months old.
We will need to resort to the in-home daycare. I will need to drop off and pick up our kids at two different locations every day.
After dropping them off, I will need to drive home to take the Metro to work (traffic, parking, and the long drive makes the train ride much more reasonable).
That means that I will need to get up at least an hour earlier (5:15 AM) to squeeze in the drop-offs at two different locations and show up at work at least 30 minutes earlier (7:30 AM) in order to leave work 30 minutes earlier (4:30 PM). The logistics just sound much more complicated than what we had expected.
What should we do?
My friend told me to consider it carefully since we, especially me, will probably be very busy and exhausted when our baby is only two months old.
Deep down, we want to send our son to the pre-K. But the thought of having to get a second car with the associated costs and the time we spend dropping our kids off at daycare and picking them up also sound very daunting, especially after I just give birth.
As I mentioned before, I want to continue working since the benefits of me working (for me and our family) far outweigh those of me being a stay-at-home mom.
I know everyone’s situation and preference is different. But both Mr. FAF and I have agreed that I will continue to work after giving birth to our second daughter.
What would you do if you were in our situation?